In what seems like a mix between a horror film, pop music video and therapy session, Bryony Kimmings presents her most honest and raw production yet. The performance artist, famous for Sex Idiot (2010) and Seven Day Drunk (2012), presents her first solo show in almost a decade and audiences and artists alike are flocking to the Battersea Arts Centre for it. Kimmings’ show battles with the most recent years of her life – after settling down with her long-term partner Tim and having a child. Kimmings soon experiences high levels of anxiety, depression and postnatal breakdowns to which she’s never felt before. Though, the show is about triumph, struggle and rebirth. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch plays in BAC’s new Phoenix centre after the infamous Great Hall fire in 2016. Fitting, no?
The show starts in, what was known as, classic Kimmings fashion. In sequins dress and a platinum blonde, Marcel-wave wig, the artist frantically scourers the stage in a camp fashion mixed with horror noises and musical beats. Only a minute in does Kimmings stop and address her audience. ‘Imagine if I started the show like that‘ she laughs. She then strips herself of her shiny clothes, wig and reveals the much more relaxed Bryony underneath – adorned with comfy black sportswear.
She lectures her audiences on her past shows and her history of styles she used in them, and reaffirms that ‘I’m a Phoenix, Bitch’ is something considerably different.
The performance is relaxed and the audience are aware of its subject matter beforehand. Kimmings takes the mental health storyline in her stride and makes sure to lighten the mood along the way. She claims, ‘Haven’t we already had enough stories about mental mothers? Well, actually, we’ve had a lot of stories about men with mental mothers so…’.
She takes us through her relationship with her mother, her relationship with men in general and finally, the relationship with her son, Frank. Frank is diagnosed early in his life with West Syndrome – suffering from infantile spasms and other issues, which takes a toll on Kimmings. She finds her world caving in and presents that to the audience through live-made music videos, a few small sets, weight-lifting and physical theatre. It’s a masterclass in one-woman shows and reminds us just how much we’ve missed Kimmings on the stage
There is no obvious happy end with this tale, nor would you expect it. Kimmings showcases how she’s learnt to deal with her growing anxiety and how she’s taking the steps to ensure the better well-being of herself and her son. A relatable and realistic ending. This charismatic artist has the audience on the edge of their seats consistently and they will follow Kimmings wherever she goes next.
Review by Tomm Ingram
I’m a Phoenix, Bitch combines personal stories with epic film, soundscapes and ethereal music to create a powerful, dark and joyful work about motherhood, heartbreak and finding inner strength. Having spent the last few years on collaborative projects and telling other peoples’ stories, including co-writing a script with Oscar award-winning actress Emma Thompson, developing musical A Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer and starring in Channel 4’s The Sex Clinic: Artist In Residence, recent personal cataclysmic life events have led Bryony back to her original solo practice.
I’m a Phoenix, Bitch
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN
Date: 3 – 20 Oct 2018
Press night: Mon 8 Oct, 8pm